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reviews last days of Bulawayo-Harare Walk
Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
October 04, 2004
1:30 pm, on Wednesday 29 September, 9 members of WOZA walked into
Africa Unity Square in Harare Zimbabwe. Ten days earlier 35 women
had begun a 440-kilometer sponsored walk from Bulawayo to Harare.
They were joined for 60-kilometer stints by up to 120 women from
Bulawayo and Harare. The walk objectives were to raise funds for
women’s rights activists due to be affected if the NGO Bill becomes
law and to protest against the passing of the Bill.
Tuesday 28th September, just 60 km from Harare, Police
arrested 52 activists as they walked towards their lunchtime base
just 15 km from Norton. They were arrested by Norton Police and
taken to Selous Police Station. Some of them were moved to Chegutu
and Kadoma where they were held in custody for 3 days before a magistrate
ruled that they had no case to answer and ordered their release.
The fifty-two, comprising 48 women and 4 men who had volunteered
to drive and guard the women were harassed, intimidated, threatened
by Police officers. They had money stolen from them and Police even
looted their supplies. A bowser carrying water for the group was
drained of water and searched for any hidden documentation – none
was located. Most of the 52 had their homes searched as Police attempted
to find ‘inflammatory or subversive material prejudicial to the
security of the state’.
a positive note many Police officers whispered their admiration
for the work of WOZA with one recommending the opening of a WOZA
branch in Chegutu for his wife to attend. Many Police officers said
they listen to the independent radio stations and that they had
been monitoring our progress.
the arrest of the 52, only 2 WOZA women remained out of custody,
Jenni Williams and Siphiwe Maseko. Later that evening when Siphiwe
went to deliver food for the prisoners, she too was arrested leaving
just Jenni Williams. Siphiwe was assaulted by Police officers but
was released on Thursday without being charged. She was assaulted
by a plain-clothes officer called Dhliwayo, PISI Norton. He stooped
so low as to use vulgar swear words to the women.
Wednesday morning dawned, Jenni Williams began to complete the walk
to Harare. WOZA women had agreed that no matter what, the walk was
to be completed. She walked alone for 25 km before she was joined
by Harare women in Kuwadzana and Warren Park. One woman had her
4-month daughter Tafadzwa Trish with her. As the group arrived in
the outskirts of Harare two women living with HIV/Aids joined the
walk. Unfortunately, one lady only managed half a city block before
fainting. The other would spend 3 days in custody with the WOZA
the group arrived at Africa Unity Square they thanked the almighty
for the work and sacrifice of the WOZA women and they prayed for
those arrested in Chegutu to be quickly released. After singing
a religious song, they dispersed only to be arrested less than a
block away. They would be charged under Section 19 of the Public
Order Security Act (POSA) and are due to appear in a Harare magistrates
court on 13 October 2004. Police said they had committed an offence
by ‘praying in public’. Three of the women were allegedly beaten
during interrogation by a plain-clothes officer called Mhondoro.
Affidavits are being prepared for legal recourses.
wish to declare that the sponsored walk was a victory for freedom
loving Zimbabweans. We wish the walk to be entered into the Guinness
Book of Records as the longest protest walk conducted under draconian
legislation like POSA. We wish to announce that there were two undeclared
objectives of the walk. One was to set an example to Zimbabweans
that they must be prepared to sacrifice if they want freedom. This
is explained well by Nelson Mandela in his Rivonia speech – he described
the freedom fighters as ‘Amadelakufa’ – those willing to sacrifice.
The second objective was to demonstrate to Zimbabweans that democratic
space must be fought for. Many a demonstration in Zimbabwe has been
measured in terms of metres; WOZA just set a new standard – kilometres.
Administrators of the Guinness Book of Records will shortly be receiving
correspondence from us.
the women of WOZA are in the final stages of planning the visit
to Parliament to lobby legislators. Women will walk to Parliament
in silence and request to see the Speaker to hand over their
petition. They will risk further arrest to do so.
thank members of the press for their reportage of the Walk and arrest
the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) fact
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